Article by Kathy Gilbert, United Methodist News Service, umc.org
Photo by Jay Mallin UMNS
After several uncomfortable hours under arrest, 32 people of faith, including two United Methodist bishops, gathered again in prayer after a peaceful demonstration against U.S. immigration deportations.
Bishops Minerva Carcaño and Julius Trimble, who are co-chairs of the denomination’s Interagency Task Force on Immigration, and Harriett Jane Olson, top executive of United Methodist Women, were released from the U.S. Park Police Anacostia Operation facility along with other faith and labor leaders and undocumented immigrants.
The group was arrested by park police while kneeling or standing on the icy, hard concrete in front of the White House on President’s Day, Feb. 17, to call attention to the fact that nearly 2 million people have been deported during the Obama Administration.
In a prayer after all 32 were reunited with other protesters at the United Methodist Building, which houses the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, Trimble thanked God for everyone’s safe delivery.
“God you were present today and you are present tonight and you are present with all the thousands of our friends and neighbors and family members who remain detained as we have been released. This is a day that needed to happen, this is a day we will not forget but we count it only as a down payment of further action to end deportations,” prayed Trimble.
Melissa Bowe, who works with Justice for Our Neighbors, a United Methodist free and low cost legal clinic for immigrants, said she was nervous but felt privileged to stand up for immigration reform and to ask the administration to halt hurtful deportations that are tearing apart families.
“It was very powerful experience and it was incredible to stand with the group I was standing with and sing and to have a crowd in the distance sing back,” she said.
“I was a little bit nervous the whole time. It was physically uncomfortable, but it felt like a privilege to take a small part in a very growing and important need to put pressure on the administration to halt deportation and to have some accountability for our immigration system.”
Olson said United Methodist Women has collected thousands of postcards to ask the administration to stop the deportations. In a visit to Homeland Security after the 2013 United Methodist Women’s Assembly she said they were told deportations were only being used for violent offenders.
“That is false. They are conducting a policy of oppression and fear and that is not a way we think the United States should present itself in the world,” she said, adding that while there are many things the administration cannot do unless Congress will act, it can choose how to enforce the law.